I was up alone and in the bathtub when I heard the door open. It was late and everyone was supposed to be asleep. We had a busy day, carving pumpkins, going on our annual 'boo at the zoo' trip, and stopping at IHOP for pancakes past bedtime (on a school night.) I was exhausted and so were they.
Two nights ago I was home alone for the first time past dark since Mabel died. The house was sickeningly quiet until the unrecognizable but familiar groans rose from deep in my belly. The sounds that escape me in those moments of grief are terrible, even to my own ears. Before I knew it moments had turned to hours. I flailed, stomach churning, and wandered aimlessly through the house where her absence is just too heavy. I want to claw at myself, at her blankets, at anything to find a piece of what I'm missing. But what I'm missing is her; never to return.
I look toward her corner and the sadness is far too invasive. She's absent. Gone.
And in these grief moments, and basically every moment in between, the magnitude of that reality is so wrong.
So as I heard her enter the bathroom last night, I knew that her time was coming. She had watched her brother weep for his sister the night before while away from home. She had been strong all through the day as we went through the motions of some of our family's fall traditions; rituals that we have always shared with their sister. By the sound of her footsteps alone I knew that my girl was about to come undone in the missing. This happens less frequently than I originally thought it would; with all of us actually, but when it does, it is a desperate and unimaginably painful experience.
For she and I.
A few minutes later, back in her room, I laid beside my oldest girl and held her shaking body. And there it was, the hell that we all work so hard to squander most days, just trying to survive-escaping from the very pit of who she is. They come from somewhere other, these sounds of mourning. Somewhere that most people don't even know exists. It's this burning from deep within that is like actual fire to the bones. And I watched her face as the disgusting reality bit her lips and they quivered at the knowing.
"I never even got to hear her say she loved me. I never got to play with her like a normal sister. I cannot wait until I can do that with her one day when I see her again. Today was a hard day mommy. I didn't know it would be so hard but all day I felt it. I miss her so bad."
I didn't know it would be so hard either. I expect it to be but then I find us in the middle of our ordinary, normal routines and watch closely as I think we are all doing just fine. But I should know by now; none of it feels right or ok. We get through it because we feel like we should and because we don't know what else to do. Are we going to simply do nothing because she isn't here or are we going to move along with life; with one another and try to expose that joy that is buried beneath the sadness? I think every one of us wants that to be what we choose and that is why we, without question, carry on with the mundane chores of life along with the traditional things that have always brought us so much happiness.
It's just that now, they also coexist with a whole lot of sadness. A whole lot of loneliness. A whole lot of missing. A whole lot of heartache. A whole lot of absence.
This little girl was part of everything we did.
Every game we attended, she was in tow. Every pumpkin we carved, she observed from her seat beneath us. Every thanksgiving dinner we had, she was crying or loudly 'talking' in the background. She was at every 'boo at the zoo,' dressed in an obnoxious costume that I picked out and put on her (and she almost always hated it.) She was in every photo shoot, at every mall trip, was with us for every van ride to look at Christmas lights. She was with me every day, hot or cold, taking the kids to school. She went trick or treating, egg hunting and hay rack riding right alongside every one of the typical kids in her life.
It was a difficult task to include her in those things, especially as she got older, longer and weaker but we did it. And I know that not only her siblings but all of her tiny friends and cousins feel that loss more strongly than they'll ever be able to explain. But I also know they wouldn't want it any other way. Her presence was more important, more valuable, more life lasting than her absence. The memories of Mabel beside them-screaming or not- means everything.
Oh, my oldest girl, I just can't explain the heartache she carries. I can't explain it because I simply don't know it. I have my sister and my brother here with me on earth. Every day I know that I am lucky and I try desperately to not take it for granted.
Both of the kids have a deep understanding of Mabel's eternal healing. I hear them talk of how they would never want her to be suffering in the ways that she was. But on the other side of the token, they wish her here so badly. And I get it. I miss her, medical complexities and all, because that is who she was. Sometimes it doesn't feel like she was suffering because she was loved so recklessly by all of us. But just like I have to do with myself, I walk them through it and remind them that her earthly body was insanely flawed and not only did it fail her every day, but it was literally harming her.
My daughter's body rejected itself time and time again.
And then Mercy revealed Himself and called her home.
She isn't here and she won't ever be again.
These are the facts that swarm our minds and feel like open, gaping wounds to our flesh in those moments that overtake us.
Our grief-all of our grief, it is so raw. It is so afflicting. It is all consuming.
Day to day, we really do ok. We are functioning and surviving and even finding true joy in the midst of it. But in the most unexpected moments, at the times when we are least prepared, grief wakes in us and he can be a true monster.
I would have loved to write all about how beautiful yesterday was with the colors of fall all around us as we carved pumpkins on our driveway, did projects for school, and dressed in our costumes for the first time this year. Instead, all that I can share is the late night wails of a sister who's heart was tormented by those very things. And all I can do while she moans in agony is hold her tightly and remind her that although not the same, I really do know.
The loss, the pain, the sorrow and anguish. I know, and I too lash and wail at the missing.
This week was awful for me as well.
I walked many miles through the town as I usually do but all I could feel was mourning.
The colors are too vibrant, the air is too crisp. It all feels so perfect and yet, perfection met Jesus almost 5 months ago. Our hearts and our home are changed forever and the reality is unshakable. I'm almost ready to welcome winter so I can get past these autumn months-the months that she and I shared so purposefully together.
I held Nora tightly until her body stopped shaking and instead began to jerk as sleep overtook her. I watched her and silently asked God for continued comfort. His peace covers us daily and these moments are likely never going to end.
How does one cease grieving?
So as long as we are alive and missing our girl, I will be near.
I am positive I'm getting it wrong in a lot of ways, in many moments, on most days but I know in these times-the critical occasions when they need to be little and need to feel all that consumes them, if I am near there is no way to mess it up. We will get through it together.
"Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope."